AUDI is to be admired for its willingness to spread the love when it comes to its high performance cars.
BMW is cautious with which models it will "M-ify" and Mercedes-AMG is almost equally selective but Audi has far fewer constraints about which of its cars gets the full hyper RS treatment by its Quattro GmbH division and the performance car world is a better place for it.
This week Audi has not one but two new RS (it stands for RennSport, by the way) models ready for launch in Australia but it is the RS Q3 that will grab a lot of interest and the lion's share of sales.
Speaking at the car's launch, Audi Australia managing director Andrew Doyle said no other car offered the same range of performance, versatility or exclusivity for the price.
''It's a truly unique vehicle, the first of its kind, and we believe it will only further expand on Australia's growing love of performance SUV models,'' Mr Doyle said.
It blends the basic packaging of the quite sweet Q3 SUV but flicks the 2.0-litre, four-cylinder petrol and diesel engines for a raunchy 2.5-litre, turbocharged five-cylinder with direct-fuel-injection, twin overhead camshafts and 20 valves.
The same engine, in fact, that powers it sexy TT RS coupe. Goodbye 130 kilowatts, hello 228 kilowatts and 420 Newton metres of torque.
Hello, too, to a seven-speed double-clutch DSG automatic transmission and all-wheel drive Quattro drivetrain with variable torque distribution, all of it helping to punch RS Q3 from standstill to 100kmh in a claimed 5.2 seconds and on to a 250kmh electronically-limited top speed. Not a bad effort for the first of Audi's "Q" SUVs to wear the high performance RS badge.
As part of the overall performance package the MacPherson front strut/rear multi-link suspension has been completely redesigned and the ride height dropped by 25mm to lower the centre of gravity.
Showing it was serious about getting chassis balance right, the battery has been moved to the right rear corner and mounted low for optimised weight distribution.
What do you get?
Despite the overt performance characteristics of the car, including RS-specific styling and equipment such as the high-performance brake package with "wave" disc rotors, luxury touches run deep.
That means a navigation system with 18.5cm colour display, 20 gigabyte hard drive, two SD card readers, rear-view camera, Bluetooth interface with audio streaming and sports seats with Nappa leather upholstery.
It also has automatic dual-zone air-conditioning and RS-specific interior highlights. There are a number of performance, assistance and styling packages ranging from $1500 to $5250 available for RS Q3.
The real kicker with this rather practical hyper-SUV is its $81,900 price point, making it the first RS model to be priced under $100,000.
The RS Q3 corners with outstanding composure for an SUV which almost defies gravity.
It's fast, practical and more than just a little bit sexy. What more could you want?
Model: Audi RS Q3.
Details: Compact five-door all-wheel drive performance SUV.
Engine: 2.5-litre turbocharged five-cylinder petrol generating maximum power of 228kW @ 5200-6700rpm and peak torque of 420Nm from 1500-5200rpm.
Transmission: Seven-speed automatic.
Consumption: 8.8 litres/100km (combined average).
Performance: 0-100kmh in 5.2 seconds; top speed 250kmh.
Bottom line: $81,900.
THE RS7 is one of those cars that just feels right first time out, a car that manages to blend quite masculine styling with a mechanical package offering up stunning performance and all of it with a solid feel of practicality.
A quasi-supercar, in other words, that accommodates four adults comfortably, while boasting 535 litres of luggage space.
The engine makes 412kilowatts of power when it is truly angry and 700 Newton metres of torque when it is really pushing; enough to send it rocketing from 0-100kmh in a claimed 3.9 seconds and on to a 250kmh limited top speed for the regular car or 305kmh when the $25,840 Dynamic Package Plus with ceramic brakes, RS Sport suspension, dynamic ride control and dynamic steering is ticked on the options list.
On the road
Aimed at any sort of road RS7 covers ground wonderfully well...but what is difficult to fathom is its ability given the large (5012mm long, 1911mm wide, 1920kilogram) sedan frame.
Yes, it snorts and snarls when it has to, and it can be flicked easily around narrow roads and tight hairpins, but by the same token it will meander along quite peacefully in traffic, offering the sort of ride that smells faintly of something devilish but feels soft enough not to ruffle the feathers of anyone occupying the three spare seats.
What do you get?
Standard equipment includes adaptive air suspension, LED headlights with high-beam assist, digital TV reception and digital radio, a head-up display, parking system with front and rear cameras, a glass sunroof and leather-covered sports seats with honeycomb stitching.
A number of performance packages ranging from $4900 to almost $26,000 are also available for the $238,500 car.
Not surprisingly, RS7 drops into a truly niche market with just two rivals, Mercedes-Benz's $260,000 CLS 63 AMG and BMW's $299,000 M6 Gran Coupe. What is just a little surprising is that Audi says it will sell just 20 here in a full year.
Model: Audi RS7.
Details: Four-door large all-wheel drive performance sportback.
Engine: 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 petrol generating maximum power of 412kW @ 5700-6600rpm and 700Nm @ 1750-5500rpm.
Consumption: 9.8 litres/100km.
Performance: 0-100kmh in 3.9 seconds; top speed 305kmh (with the Dynamic Package Plus package).
Bottom line: $238,500.
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